06
Feb
12

Relics of bureaucracy past

Aaron Carroll responds to comments on his response to the “regulate sugar” op/ed:

The first thing I noticed was this juxtaposition:

We regulate alcohol by making it illegal to use it before the age of 21. Period. […]

We regulate tobacco by making it illegal to use it before the age of 18. Period.

Looking just at those numbers, rather than at the legislative process that imposed them, one could be forgiven for thinking that government thinks that tobacco is less harmful than alcohol.  But of course the regulatory histories of alcohol and tobacco are vastly different, so one should hardly expect to be able to compare their results.

The second thing I noticed was this line of argument, on the subject of a “sugar tax”:

In fact, I’ve often thought that we should subsidize things we want to encourage in society and tax things we don’t, so I’m not sure why we’re so fixated on subsidizing sugar and so loathe to tax it.

Reg-you-lah-tor-ee capt-cher, of course.  But come to think of it, we subsidize the living fuck out of corn production, and to no-one’s surprise that cheap subsidized corn gets fermented into beer and distilled into grain alcohol… which we then tax. Mixed signals much?  (I would not be shocked to discover that tobacco growers receive generous subsidies, but I can’t be arsed to google it.)

Funny how public choice informs so much of the policy we’d prefer to take as normative.

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